Common occurrence in the list of daily DevOps tasks is the one to deal with AWS EC2 Spot Instances. They offer the same performance, as the OnDemand counterparts, they are cheap to the extend that user can specify the hourly price. The drawback is that AWS can reclaim them if the market price goes beyond the user’s price. Still, those are key component, a basic building block, in every modern elastic system. As such, DevOps engineers must regularly interact with those.

AWS provides proper command line interface, aws ec2 request-spot-instances exposes multiple options to the user. However, some of the common use cases are not comprehensively covered in the documentation. For example, creating Spot Instances with Userdata using the command line tools is somewhat obscure and convoluted, although common need in DevOps and Developers lives. The tricky part: It must be BASE64 encoded!

Assume the following, simple UserData script, must be deployed on numerous EC2 Spot Instances:

Make sure base64 command is available in your system, or use equivalent, to encode the sample file before passing to the launch specification:

In this example two spot instance requests will be created for m3.medim instances, using ami-a6926dce AMI, test-key SSH key, running in test-sg Security Group. BASE64-encoded contents of will be attached to the request so upon fulfillment the Userdata will be passed to the newly created instances and executed after boot-up.

Spot instance requests will be created in the AWS EC2 Dashboard:

Screen Shot 2014-07-12 at 9.11.20 PM

Once the Spot Instance Requests (SIRs) are fulfilled, InstanceID will be associated for each SIR:

Screen Shot 2014-07-12 at 9.18.24 PM

EC2 Instances dashboard will show newly created Spot Instances (notice the “Lifecycle: spot” in Instance details):

Screen Shot 2014-07-12 at 9.20.30 PM

Using the proper credentials, one can verify successful execution of the on each instance:

… and more importantly, if the configured service works as expected:

Newly created Spot Instances are serving traffic, running at 0.01 USD/hr and will happily do so until the market price for this instance type goes above the specified price!